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White Paper - Vaginal Dryness Expectations Survey

Posted on November 15 2016

Today there are many resources available for women to learn about and prepare for the experience of going through menopause. Women have their health providers who are armed with an increasing amount of research on sexual health and menopause, they have information provided on the internet, and they have organizations focused on mid-life women’s health.

Despite these resources, many women are still taken by surprise by the experiences of going through menopause. To understand this phenomenon better, PrevaLeaf™ and MiddlesexMD® partnered together to better understand women’s expectations of and experiences with Vaginal Dryness. Vaginal dryness was selected because it is both common and can significantly impact a woman’s life – both daily and sexual life.
 
Study design: The questions were designed to learn about women’s expectations of and experiences with menopause and vaginal dryness, as well as their comfort discussing these issues and with whom.     Respondents were asked:
  • Age range
  • Menopausal status (including perimenopause versus menopause)
  • “Do you ever experience vaginal dryness – either in daily life or during sex?”
  • “Do you talk about your experiences of vulvar or vaginal dryness with your doctor or other health provider?”
  • “Do you talk about your experiences of vulvar or vaginal dryness with your friend?”
  • “Do you talk about your experiences of vulvar or vaginal dryness with your partner or significant other”
  • “What is your overall comfort talking about vaginal dryness with anyone (health provider, friend or partner”
  • “How does your experience with vulvar or vaginal dryness compare to what you expected when you were younger?”

Finally, respondents were provided the opportunity to give an open response to tell about themselves and their experiences more broadly.

Respondents were solicited from women visiting the PrevaLeaf and MiddleSexMD websites and from the MiddleSex MD newsletter distribution list.

  • 109 women completed the survey and 93% of the respondents reported experiencing vaginal dryness “often” or “sometimes”

 

  •  When asked how their experience with vulvar or vaginal dryness compared to what they expected when they were younger, 56% stated they didn’t know what to expect and an additional 40% stated it was worse or more severe than what they expected. (Of the remaining respondents, 11% said the dryness was better than they had expected and 4% said it was what they expected.)

     

    One possible explanation for these women being taken by surprise is their not openly talking about issues of vaginal dryness. Based on the results of this study, this is a possible contributing factor. The study found that:

    • 36% of women don’t talk about their vaginal dryness with their doctors
    • 56% don’t talk about it with their friends
    • 22% don’t talk about it with their partner or significant other.

     

    Instead, women go on their own to other sources like the internet. As one respondent reported: “I consult the internet about my dry, itchy vagina.”

    Some also wrestle with feelings of guilt. As one women reported: “I guess I feel it’s an admission there’s something wrong with me sexually.”

    The survey also highlighted how much the experience of vaginal dryness can affect women’s relationships and daily life. For example, women reported:

    • “This has had a terrible effect on my sex life”
    • It is “painful and bleeding”
    • “It has arrested my sex life”
    • I “was not expecting pain”
    • “I wonder why women are never prepared for the changes of this stage of life the way they are for menarche” and “We never talked about sex when I was growing up.”
    • I am “frustrated with yet another female issue”

    In summary, this study highlights the critical importance of the mission of both MiddlesexMD and PrevaLeaf: educating women about the symptoms and experiences of menopause, as well as continuing to fight societal stigmas associating with aging. There is no reason a woman should feel the symptoms of hormonal changes during menopause should reflect anything “wrong” with her or her sexuality. The fact that these results came largely from women we might assume are more open to learning about menopause (since they were actively seeking information on menopause from PrevaLeaf for MiddlesexMD) supports the hypothesis that these feelings may be even at greater levels in the general population.

    The study also highlights the opportunity for the media and health professionals to educate younger women about menopause. There is no reason women should feel more prepared for – and comfortable with - phases of life such as pregnancy or menarche, and not feel equally prepared for menopause.

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